Category Archives: Heteronormativity

Start Seeing Straight Privilege

HeteronormativeLately, I have been more aware than ever of the countless benefits and privileges unfairly given those of us who identify as heterosexual. When I read or hear about privilege, it usually concerns race or sex/gender and because I am neither white nor male,  it can be easy to overlook the fact that I am still privileged AF.
I would bet that all the progress with gay marriage and public endorsement of same-sex couples creates an illusion that things are better than they really are. In the same way that people like to believe that sexism and racism don’t exist today, we are on a fast track to doing the same with sexual orientation.
I want to acknowledge that privilege is far more difficult to see when it’s working with you rather than against you. Still, that’s not an excuse to avoid putting in the effort it takes to own up to your privilege and to do something about it. I feel responsible for learning about the challenges of living as a LGBTQ individual in a heteronormative society and doing by best to mitigate those challenges.
Here are some of the ways I recognized my heterosexual privilege (I am aware that these are still from my perspective and are probably biased):
1. My sexual preferences are not seen by others as a core part of my identity – unless I want them too.
2. I don’t have to worry that the people closest to me will become distant after learning of my sexual preferences.
3. When looking for a partner, I can assume most of my target gender will have the same sexual orientation as me – also making the pool of potentials much larger.
4. I do not have to question how “gay-friendly” a space is to feel comfortable being there with my significant other.
5. I haven’t grown up in a culture that sees my preferences as sinful, immoral, unnatural or just a phase.
6. Clothing made for my body also signifies the gender I wish I express.
7. I don’t have to question if my same-sex friends think I have a crush on them.
8. Basically every movie I watch, song I hear, or ad I see validates my sexual preference as the unquestioned norm.
9. I am not lumped together with the entirety of the “gay community” whose members often have no more in common than non-members.
10. I am not subjected to the “be just like us” ideal American family model whilst being unable to fully participate.
Of course, this is not even scratching the surface. I chose these 10 points because they are less publicized, and in my opinion, more abstract. Discrimination in the media concerning LGBTQ folk typically consists of legal matters and acts of violence s – aka two of the most concrete topics. Subtle or normalized topics, on the other hand, often go overlooked.
I would argue that straight privilege is taking us longer to recognize because overall sexuality is more abstract to us than either race or sex/gender. For one, it’s invisible (well technically.) Two, even heterosexual sexuality is a taboo subject. Regardless, privilege and discrimination around sexuality can only be understood in the context of all other forms of identity – I still have a lot to learn about this!
If anyone has comments or criticism I would be happy to hear it. I don’t claim to understand how it feels to live as an LGBTQ member of society or to be an expert on privilege. I purposely didn’t research before writing because I wanted use my own ideas and my current, honest knowledge of this topic. I hope to be able to identify with others who are in this stage and hopefully get people thinking about how this applies to their daily lives and to start seeing straight privilege!
Heteronormativity Day
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The power in butch: possessive language in queer relationships

At work about a month ago, I made a sound, “uh-hhh,” kind of guttural, almost a hiss. Those of you who know me know the sound I’m describing. A coworker teased me about the sound. Lots of folks tease me when I make that sound. I’m used to it. But what bothered me was what she said next, “It’s alright. All femmes make that sound.”

This ticked me off. She is someone I like and it’s not the only thing she has said that has bothered me, so I figure it’s time to think about what she’s been saying/determine why it bothers me.

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After some reflection, I’ve decided I didn’t like the femme comment because I’ve never categorized myself as a femme and I don’t agree with sweeping generalizations. I don’t like to think I fit into the stereotypes associated with the term. The word femme is usually used to describe a feminine lesbian or a feminine gay man, and its converse is manliness, or a butch or dyke. While I do I wear jewelry and skinny jeans – those are feminine things, I guess – I don’t strive to fit into gender or sexuality stereotypes, and I am not always submissive or a bottom – connotations that the word femme brings up for me. I  also struggle with the idea that an entire population of people all make one sound. I’m sure my coworker was exaggerating, but what does it mean to clump a group of people together like that, even if it’s just in terms of a sound? What other generalizations can then be made?

My coworker also called her partners, “My bitches and hoes…” and used dominating language to talk about them. She spoke of keeping partners in check and having partners make her happy. My coworker has made it clear that she is a top. I understand that people like a wide range of power dynamics in their sex lives and relationships. However, I don’t know the boundaries of my coworker’s relationships and I don’t know the extent to which her partners have consented to the use of such dominating language. Being on the outside of the relationship, I don’t feel it’s appropriate for me to hear such language used to describe a lover.

Aside from my coworker, I’ve been told that the terms “bitch” and “hoe” are used widely in some queer relationships, especially by the more masculine-presenting partner. This language reminds me of colonization and oppression – two things I hope to erase from the relationships in which I partake. Are queer folks perpetuating patriarchal power dynamics when using possessive language (and perhaps possessive behavior)?

Written by Magdalena Kaluza. Thank you to Megan Leys and others for talking with me about this.

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“Virginity”: Why I Am Over This Term

I’ve been thinking lately, I really do not dig the concept of virginity. I am sure there have been plenty of academic, scholarly and analytical articles written about the patriarchal and homophobic background of the concept. I am not here to be the first feminist to analyze virginity but I am here to add my own thoughts on the subject.

Sex is a big deal but at the same time is it really THAT big of a deal? Think about it. What other activity designates a label to an individual who has never done said activity before?

If I have never gone snowboarding, there is no name to call me. If I have never smoked a cigarette, I do not receive a special name. Why is sex so different? Yes, sex is a big deal in the sense that there are many responsibilities that can arrive after intercourse. However, when one thinks of virginity, actual technical outcomes of sex such as pregnancy, STIs or emotional dependency are rarely a part of the conversation.condoms

On a personal note, I “lost my virginity” at what I felt at the time was late in life. I remember feeling so much shame around the fact that I had never had sex. I did not want to share with anyone that I was this horrified title…virgin. I felt embarrassed and avoided the conversation whenever possible. I would say something and others would attribute these opinions to my lack of sexual activity, where as I personally saw no correlation. When I did have sex for the first time it was not that big of a deal. I remember the expectation that it would be though. Nothing I authentically felt after having sex made me feel like a changed woman.

People on the other side of this equation, those who had sex on the “earlier side of life”, also experience shame around sex. I know women who would not dare tell their community that they had sex out of fear of judgment and further shame. It seems that women are screwed on all sides of the equation. We are prudes if we choose to not have sex or we are sluts if we choose to.

Sex is not a necessary part of every person’s life. There are a number of reasons you may not be having sex. Maybe you have not found a partner you wish to have sex with. Maybe you are asexual. Maybe you have had a traumatic experience of sexual assault.  Not having sex can be just as positive of an aspect of your life as having lots of pleasurable sex. Both of these options need to be incorporated into the sex positivity movement. If we only talk about sex as something that women must participate in to be fully liberated, we are excluding a large amount of individuals and not allowing for a variety of experiences of liberation.

Who does it and how does one “lose their virginity?” What is the identification of virginity when one does not have sex with a member of the opposite sex? In our heteronormative world, is the concept of virginity only relative in the experiences of individuals who solely sleep with members of the opposite sex? Even if a person does predominantly have sex with someone of the opposite sex, this does not mean that his or her definition of sex is solely vaginal intercourse. Society’s understanding of sex and this idea that one can “lose” their virginity is centralized around a penis. Although much homophobia is placed unto the experiences of two men having sex, I have witnessed somewhat of an acceptance that two men having sex is “legitimate sex.” It might not be “traditional” or “moral” according to homophobic individuals but most people would call this sex, whether or not they supported it. Therefore, the majority of accepted forms in defining sex, place the penis as a crucial component to how one might lose their virginity. Where do women who have sex with women fall into this definition? If a woman never has sex with a man in her life will she always be considered a virgin? Even typing that is ludicrous.

The concept of virginity has a narrow definition, is rooted in the assumption that all people are heterosexual and at the end of the day is pretty damn worthless. Have sex. Don’t have sex. Do whatever you want. Whatever you choose to do, just remember you are a PERSON before you are a “virgin” or any other label. The label of virginity is irrelevant; I will be avoiding THAT from now on.

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